Wednesday, February 10, 2016

In Praise of Generosity of Spirit

I write this post in gratitude and admiration for my children, Corin, age 46, and Cecelia, age 30. They both have a tremendous generosity of spirit that I can’t take credit for. Corin lived through his father’s and my difficult separation and divorce at a very young age and had a tough childhood in which I often say that he raised himself. Cecelia grew up during a time when both Herb and I, as older parents (compared to her childhood contemporaries), were focused on building our careers and stressed from traveling constantly in our jobs.

Yet, somehow, throughout the trials of their childhoods, our children each managed in their own way to grow up into extraordinarily generous-hearted adults who are good partners to their beloveds, friends their friends can count on, and caring colleagues. (We call them our children, and they call all the various sets of parents their parents.) How does this happen?

I suspect part of the answer is that both Corin and Cecelia are inherently good people who value life and have compassion for other people’s difficulties. To say that we all have been blessed is a huge understatement. We also can claim sizable extended biological families on all sides who maintain family ties, emphasizing that all the cousins of our children’s generation get to know and love each other. Mutual respect is paramount in establishing good family relations when divorce and remarriage occur.

All of us parents and significant adults (while we were still dating) who passed through Corin’s and Cecelia’s lives subscribed to some basic tenets of good behavior and respect for others. There was no hitting, verbal abuse, or cheating allowed. Sacrificing for education and employment were priorities that we spoke about explicitly. We talked with our children like they were fully people and not merely youngsters who were not yet people. We told them the truth, even when it was complicated and disappointing. We included our children in everything we did as much as possible, so that they met our friends and came to our events.

I must comment that we were greatly helped by living in Hawaii at the time, immersed in a Polynesian/Asian cultural environment where children are included without question. None of our group, including us, used hired babysitters; our children were cared for by our friends and extended biological families when we had to be somewhere or were traveling without children. The culture supported us to nurture relationships that value children and place them fully and centrally in those communities’ midst. That kind of community focus matters, and it helps to create healthy children who become healthy adults.

Both Corin and Cecelia share a great love for animals and humor. Corin and his family care for three dogs, and Cecelia and her partner live with two cats. Along the way, both have also fostered additional cats, dogs, and the occasional sugar glider flying squirrel and rat. Corin and Cecelia also share a love for stand-up comedy and puns, which I envy. (The fact that Cantonese is my first language inhibits my English-language comedy appreciation, to Herb’s and my great regret.) I think compassion and a sense of humor are spiritual dimensions that transcend barriers to good relationships.

I admire the fact that Corin never says an unkind word about anyone. That is a lesson I am still trying to learn, and he is one of my teachers. Corin has worked successfully in a sales field for a couple of decades. I’m convinced his success derives from his belief in the unexplored goodwill hidden in people, who respond positively to his expectation that they will bring their best selves to the table.

Cecelia has surprised and pleased her father and me with her generosity dating back to her pre-teen years. She has also affirmed Herb, me, and her grandmother frequently, expressing her thanks for our presence in her life. She often gave from her own treasures to teenage friends who needed to know love, and she has helped other young adults at a financial cost to herself when she did not have many resources to call her own. Cecelia now also works in a customer service field, and her empathy for others is reflected in the collegial relationships she has built.

As Herb and I get closer to the end of our earthly lives, we feel truly fulfilled and grateful for our good fortune that our children have graced and blessed our lives and the lives of others. Our prayer is that other parents experience some of these blessings in their lives, too.